Refs wishes to officiate in AJHL whistled down
Hockey Alberta denies Gregory not given opportunity to officiate based on gender
Cassandra Gregory’s talent as a hockey linesman was recognized when she was assigned to work the men’s final at a prestigious annual midget triple-a tournament in Calgary on Jan. 1.
The 23-year-old from Edmonton also was nominated by her region’s referees committee to work lines in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season.
She was asked in August if she was available for exhibition games, which would have made her the first female official in the AJHL.
“Everybody was ecstatic because we’ve finally broken the female barrier in the Alberta Junior Hockey League,” said former NHL linesman Mike Cvik, who now volunteers as an officials supervisor in the province.
“Saskatchewan has already done it, B.C. has done it, Manitoba has done it.”
But Gregory was informed she would not work those AJHL exhibition games.
She said she was told by Hockey Alberta referee-inchief Craig Decoursey “this was all happening because I’m a female. And those were his exact words. They didn’t even try and hide it.”
“I honestly lost sleep over it for the first week and a half,” Gregory said. “I would sleep maybe two hours a night and wake up absolutely upset. I do have aspirations to work at the highest level possible.”
Decoursey denied gender was the reason he gave to Gregory for the rejection of her nomination.
“She expressed that to me. I tried to explain I didn’t believe that was the case,” Decoursey said. “I feel like she went away not believing what I had to say.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with gender whatsoever.”
But a referees committee member who spoke on the condition he not be identified said “the resistance is coming because she’s a female and the extra hoops are being presented because of that.”
The AJHL assigns referees to games, but Hockey Alberta is responsible for assigning linesmen, according to AJHL spokesperson Charla Flett.
“We’ve had female coaches go through our league, we’ve had female players go through the league and I think right now we’re at 11 of 16 team trainers and athletic therapists are female, so it’s something we’re not shying from at all,” Flett said.
“I understand where the question is coming from because we don’t have female officials right now. It isn’t something the league is opposed to.”
Neither Decoursey nor Curtis Nichols, who is both the AJHL’S supervisor of officials and Hockey Alberta’s manager of officiating, would say why Gregory was rejected or who made that decision.
Decoursey, Nichols and George Mccorry, the AJHL’S vice-president of officiating, are the ultimate authorities on which officials get into the league.
Hockey Alberta’s six regions nominate officials for the AJHL and assign linesmen to games when they’ve been approved.
Nichols says roughly half a dozen referees and 10 linesman whose names are put forward by the zones each year don’t make the cut.
“We’re always looking for the best officials. It doesn’t matter at all, male or female,” Nichols said.
Referee Cassandra Gregory works the Mac’s midget triple-a tournament in Calgary last month. Gregory’s talent as a hockey linesman was recognized when she was assigned to work the men’s final at the prestigious annual midget triple-a tournament.